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Editorial: Time To End Raids

12 March 2010 News 4,071 views No CommentPrint This Post Print This Post Email This Post Email This Post

The rule of law is an established legal maxim accepted as the foundation of civilized society. Unfortunately, the very authorities whose careers are based on that precept currently appear to be capriciously manipulating it in favor of personal agendas.

Authorities across the U.S. continue an unfortunate assault on those involved in the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. They do so even in locations where voters have overwhelmingly approved medical marijuana and are working hard to step out of the shadows and create businesses and collectives that contribute immensely to the public good.

These police actions, which range from actual raids to such intimidation as parking outside of clinics to eyeball patrons, occur despite assurances last October by Deputy U.S. Attorney General David Ogden that the Justice Department will respect state laws. And, as a recent incident in Colorado suggests, the actions often target growers and dispensary owners who speak in public.

Quite simply, this must stop.

Last month, federal agents swarmed the home of Chris Bartkowicz, a grower in a Colorado Springs suburb. It was one of several recent DEA raids on high-profile facilities in the state, including those that have made a good faith effort to comply with local laws that are often vague and confusing.

Bartkowicz’s real crime, it seems, was his decision to appear on a local TV newscast to discuss a basement operation that existed for over a year. Although Bartkowicz is a registered caregiver for several patients and there is no indication that his neighbors had even noticed (much less complained) about his operation, he was still handcuffed and hauled away to jail. Given the timing, it is evident that the TV news report a few days earlier embarrassed the authorities into a misguided action.


But the real embarrassment is the heavy-handed and highly selective approach to law enforcement being continually exhibited throughout the country. Law enforcement authorities argue using the fig leaf that they are merely enforcing existing laws.  While they are correct in the letter of the law, they are certainly missing the spirit of it, as public sentiment clearly backs moving away from any demonization of those attempting to create a legal medical marijuana industry and become respected members of the communities they serve.

Thankfully, the situation has not gone unnoticed by Colorado state lawmakers. Shortly after the DEA busted Bartkowicz, Senators Chris Romer and Nancy Spence and Representatives Tom Massey and Beth McCann asked U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. to put an end to this madness. In a letter to Holder, they rightly point out that the raids have created a hostile atmosphere. Dispensary operators, patients and growers are understandably skittish about working with any government official to find a way to regulate medical marijuana while assuring access.

We applaud the efforts of lawmakers who recognize that no one is well-served by looking for ways to thwart the will of the people. We urge Holder, state and local officials to take action immediately to curtail the aggression and put an end to the assault on common sense, fairness and decency that these tactics symbolize.

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